College & Career

Students relax at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo. (Tribune file photo)

Students relax at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo. (Tribune file photo)

By Ellie Papadakis
University of Missouri

Dear seniors,
You’re almost done with high school—WOO! I know it’s hard to stay focused right now, but you’ll get through it.

Back in July, I wrote an article for The Mash about my college orientation at the University of Missouri. I talked about my first night in an empty dorm room, the awkward experience of making new friends and the sense of school pride I felt at college.

Now that I’ve successfully finished my first semester, I thought I’d write another article—an open letter to college-bound seniors. The experience I’ve had so far is much different than the one I had at college orientation.

The moment I realized that classes were starting and my parents were seven hours away enjoying deep-dish pizza without me is when I kind of freaked out. Here are a few things I’ve learned so far.

Making friends
As a senior, you’re probably imagining college as this abyss of new faces, a place where it’s impossible to rebuild the relationships you’ve worked so hard to create in high school. Don’t worry, it’s nothing like that.

You’ll make a lot of new friends through dorm life. But first, you have to break out of your comfort zone and force yourself to not be shy. As I admitted in my first article, I’m a shy girl—this was tough for me at first too.

Hang out in the common areas, talk to people in the cafeteria and knock on your neighbors’ door to say hi.

Don’t worry about making friends with every single person on your floor though. Yes, you should be friendly, but quality is always better than quantity. Find a few people you can count on and whose friendship you actually enjoy.

Homework and studying
I’m going to tell you something you probably don’t want to hear: The best way to avoid an all-nighter in college is by getting your work done early.

A lot of college assignments are submitted online through sites like Blackboard and Moodle. It’s funny how those sites seem to act up on the one day you actually need to turn something in.

Also, go to class and take good notes. You’ll make friends in your lectures and it will be tempting to ask one person to go to the lecture and take notes for everyone. Just remember, what may be an important point to you may not be important to your friend—always attend your own lectures.

Having fun
At the end of the week, it’s nice to relax and have a good time. That doesn’t mean you have to go out with people every weekend. It’s OK to sit in your bed, wrapped in your blanket burrito-style, and watch reruns of “How I Met Your Mother.”

If you do go out, make sure that you like and trust the people you’re hanging out with. Don’t ever do something you won’t be proud of the next morning.

Upperclassmen
In high school, there’s this stereotype that upperclassmen totally despise tiny freshmen. Yeah, it’s not the same in college.

It works to your advantage to make friends with older students because: 1. They usually have cars and can drive you places, and 2. They’ve been on campus longer, so you can ask them lots of questions.

Don’t ask me why, but juniors and seniors love dining hall food. If you can spare a few meal points, invite them to lunch.

About your roommates …
You might be freaking out about picking a roommate for next year. That’s understandable. Just remember that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Translation: Don’t judge a roommate by their Facebook page.

Whether you find your roommate randomly, know them from high school or use one of your university’s countless Facebook pages, it’s important to remember that everyone is nervous and freaked out.

If you get to school and you don’t really like your roommate, you’ll get through it. You can always request a transfer or work things out with your residential adviser (RA).

At the end of the day, though, college will expose you to so many new things and people. Embrace it and try not to be scared!

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About The Mash

The Mash is the Chicago Tribune's newspaper and website written for teens, by teens. The paper is distributed for free each Thursday at Chicago-area high schools and is written largely by high school students.

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